End of a Semester

This is the last week of our fall semester. Actually, it is “if you have not acquired an ulcer yet, you will get one this week’ time of the year. I HATE giving grades, though I must. This is university after all. I am highly critical of the fact that they are allowed to take 30 plus courses a semester and then not attend any lectures. This to me is not an education in subject matter, but more an education in beating the system. How much is one learning when they never have to attend a lecture and then get three opportunities to pass the mid-term and final exams? What value is that type of education when they graduate?

I only teach seminars, where they are required to attend. Department policy states they are ‘allowed’ to miss three classes, but I do have in my syllabi that attendance accumulated points toward the final grade. A missed class equals missed points. Each semester at the final stages, I ask my students to send me a paragraph telling me what grade they think they earned and why. I emphasize the need to reflect on their performance, not making it a pleading, bleeding heart monologue.

For my Academic Writing class the assignment was a no-brainer. We had discussed and practiced argumentative essays at the beginning of the semester. They are so hyped about their newly discovered or unraveled skills that they were thrilled to challenge my grading wisdom, forgetting that I am often a pussycat when it comes to grades.

Interestingly and unfortunately at the same time, my Critical Thinking class did not use many of their newly learned and honed skills, but were more subjective in their responses. This was an eye-opener for me. I have to learn something from this. What was most telling was that few actually used the point system I have on every syllabus. The whole point being for them to be able to monitor their progress throughout the semester. They know how many points each class, quiz, essay, and presentation is worth. All they have to do is keep a running total and they end of the semester will not be any surprise at all.

I received some interesting comments from students and want to keep track of them, so here they are.
Academic Writing
I am a student who deserves a 5 (an A), because I fulfilled the most important requirements for the course: I learned how to build up a paper consciously, I understood the difference between several writing styles, and I gained a lot of knowledge from the other’s writings. Unlike before taking the course, now it is clear what the functions of the paragraphs and sentences are in an essay, and how pre-writing and idea-developing techniques can make my writing process easier. Furthermore, the class made me able to differentiate the several writing styles by practicing how to write them. I also feel that I learned a lot from the other students, because when reading out each others writings, the mistakes are more obvious; therefore, it is easier to avoid them in the future. S.B.

I am more than likely to explain why I would like to get a grade 5 for this past semester for your class called Academic Writing. Besides being one of your few students who, during the whole duration of the semester, missed only one occasion and was late (7-8 minutes) only once, anytime you had an assignment for the next class, I was ready with it printed out and in hand.

You have possibly heard my voice several times in class, commenting, completing, sharing personal stories, asking or just simply joking around. However, if I am not mistaken, that is one reason why ALL YOUR STUDENTS loved this seminar and eased up the flow of it: the terrific atmosphere! I always had my works done in time, read the particular chapters from the book, had a clue what today’s class will be about, even if it seemed I did not:)

The only disbelief you are probably having is that you may never saw me holding the printed out book in my hand in class, yes that is true, because I always read the chapters on my laptop but did not want to bring it in, rather made some notes on what I considered the most important or questionable.

In sum, I strongly agree with myself saying that this semester, I totally fulfilled the requirements of the syllabus for Academic Writing seminar, not mentioning the powerful lot of, unmeasurable useful stuff I have learnt. If that counts in my grade too, you may give me a 6 or 7 (No such thing). A.M.

This semester was great regarding essay writing. I think that finally I understood how a good essay should look. The greatest part is that all of my essays were good and this gave me some hope regarding the essay writing for other courses. The classes were just like a conversation in a family or within a group of friends, which made it a lot easier for me to read my home work so that everybody could hear them. Finally I think that I would give my self a 5 since I believe that I improved my essay writing skills a lot and I am not afraid of them anymore. O.B.

Now this from one of my brightest students:
Critical Thinking Class
Using some critical thinking concepts… hmmm… I think that my papers were fairly good. I would have given myself an A on both. I did send the second one late… very late… but that wild thanksgiving party threw off my groove for two weeks or so… (by the by, I want some of your recipes, I’d kill for those sweet potatoes… YUMM) As for in-class participation… I think I did fine (A or B), except when I was a trillion chapters behind everyone else. I should’ve just read straight through the book while I had a hard copy, I’m sorry but I could not keep up because I can’t read too much on the computer, gives me a headache. By the by, now that the semester’s over, can I borrow your home copy again and finish the book? Thanks! I’d give myself a D on the Magyar Venus. Discussion leading… ummm, I thought it was good, I got you guys to play some Bullshit J (stellar A) The critical thinking textbook I found mildly entertaining. I read all of the chapters, but mainly I just scanned the text because I didn’t find it all that insightful. It is meant for a freshman course in college and I felt that it was over-explaining basic concepts. It got painfully tedious sometimes. There were parts that I really liked though. I’d give myself a B on reading the textbook. Overall, well, I’ll leave it up to you. I would certainly not give myself a 5 (maybe a 4), but I won’t put up a fight if you think otherwise. B.KMy response:

My dear young man, we are not even playing in the same ball park, let alone discussing similar scores. Your answer is not the best use of critical thinking. If you had used it, you would have looked at points, which are qualitative decision making devices, albeit there are some judgements included there also. In determining your grade, I used the number of times you were present in class, then had to depend on the subjective judgement of how many of those times you were actually present mentally. Participation was negligible at best except when the topic was diverted from the readings or the actual subject of the course. Then I took into consideration the number of late arrivals, which did not fare well. The absence of a grade for a 2nd paper that was not accepted due to it being later than late, really reduced the number of points into new lows.

If you only scanned the text, then you did not read it. Scanning and reading are two different things. There is a solution to reading on the computer. It is called printing! Although, it is not as an attractive way to spend your money as say getting a manicure is, but hey, it is only an education. Regardless of how basic the text was, repetition is the mother of learning and there obviously were concepts you had not learned from the text or you would have received a better grade. At the very least, you would have written a better justification for what grade you think you deserved. Yes, you can borrow my MV book. All the more reason to justify the grade you earned since you did not finish that book either.

Someone pass the Maalox, I have heartburn.